2015 Year in Review

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Photo courtesy of Sam Matthews.

I ended it in a better state than I started it.

January: Told friends and family I was going to move to Portland, likely in the summer if not sooner. Started my intro level roller derby practices in Oak Park.

February: Started my Feminine Comique intro to stand-up comedy class. Took a sexual harasser to court. Hosted a fun Galentines Day brunch with 20+ women I like being around. Adele and I found out our apartment was being sold, so I had to find a new plan of where to live between April and July.

March: Did my stand-up class’s final show. Told my company I was moving and asked to keep my job remotely. Started the Addison Recorded podcast with Gina, a six-week project. Turned 29. Got rid of most of my belongings in preparation for the Portland move. Set a move date for July.

April: Started a video project in which I took two-second video clips of my last 100 days of living in Chicago. Visited Portland during the rainy season to make sure I wanted to live there, AND saw the Rose City Rollers play for the first time. Concluded the podcast. Started a personal email newsletter. Moved in with Christina and John, bookending my time in Chicago in the house where I began those five years.

May: Started an ASL class with Christina, who was interested in learning. Saw my first USARS bout. My brother visited Chicago for a work conference, and then came back with his whole family a couple weeks later. Did a radio interview with WGN about Shine Theory. Saw Jenny Lewis play. Went home to Ohio for Memorial Day.

June: I got to officially announce that my company was letting me keep my job, six weeks before my move date. Did two live lit shows. Threw myself literally five going away parties. Saw Best Coast play. Gave away and sold more of my stuff.

July: Spent most of 4th of July weekend with Stef, who was planning a move to Boston just weeks after my Portland move. Put most of my new remaining belongings on an Amtrak shipment with the help of the Beans. Went to a music festival with Liz. Picked my dad up from O’Hare and drove west for 2,400 miles. Bought a couch.

August: Made new friends at a coworking space. Wrote a bunch of my book. Started writing for The Billfold. Got an essay accepted for a print anthology. Hung out with Brianne in both Oregon and Washington. Saw Jenny Lewis play twice in one weekend. Went hiking a lot with Betsy, Christina, and Kiernan. Drove to Olympia to see Paul.

September: Saw Horse Feathers play with Sam. Went to Wreckers orientation so I could start skating for Portland. Wrote more of my book and had work published more frequently on HelloGiggles. Hosted the first of many girls nights with my new Portland lady friends.

October: Went to Chicago. Went to Salt Lake City. Went to Ohio. Attended three weddings in 10 days. Jeanne came up from San Francisco to stay with me for a week. On a plane between SLC and PDX, wrote an essay about the summer I worked as a hotel housekeeper. Laura came out to celebrate Halloween the Portland way.

November: Went to the Bookmark Ball with Sam. Attended a memoir writing workshop at Wordstock. Wrote a huge chunk of my book. Took a slightly-impromptu trip to Seattle to attend an investigative reporting seminar. Crashed with Evan, Blue Star donuts in hand. Got to interview the Gilmore Guys. Got walking pneumonia but didn’t figure it out for a while. Ran a Turkey Trot, kind of. Had Thanksgiving with Yeng.

December: Went to Chicago. Went to Boston. Went to Ohio. Went back to Boston. Got to interview Ann Friedman. Hung out with Eileen, Margaret, and Liz in New Bedford. Saw Death Cab for Cutie. Bought everyone on my Christmas list a book. Spent New Year’s with Stef.

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On Writing More, Blogging Less

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Thanks to Owen for making my sweet new banner art!

It’s crazy to me that I’ve lived in Portland for more than a month now. A lot has happened, and while the first couple weeks were a little slow, I’ve got a ton of stuff coming my way soon. Roller derby tryouts for the Rose City Wreckers are September 5, and I joined a writers group. I’ve made a handful of awesome lady friends who have been so great to include me in what they’re up to on weekends. I’ve traveled and seen so much of Washington and a little bit of Oregon — more to come, for sure.

However, regular readers may have noticed I haven’t been posting much on this site. I have good news and bad news on that front — the good news is, I am working on a book, getting more paid writing work, and curating a growing newsletter! The bad news is, that’s where I’ve been focusing my time and energy.

First, that damn book: I haven’t been writing about roller derby here because that’s what my book is about. (Let me know if you’re interested in being a test audience!) Second, those essays: It’s basically been my dream to get paid to write about myself because I am a narcissist, and now that dream is a (small) reality. Third, my newsletter: If you like what I post on this blog, you should by all means sign up for The Sleeper Hit TinyLetter. It’s where a lot of my thoughts and observations are going these days.

I’ll still be posting here — just less so. For example, I am working on a post about going to visit my cousin Paul, and I’m excited to share it here just like I normally would. It’s just that the articles I am getting paid to write had to take priority, and if I’m lucky, they’ll continue to in the future. I won’t go so far as to say blogging is dead, as others have been crying for a while, but I do feel my posts are going to become less frequent.

I started this blog almost eight years ago, and I’m not ready to stop writing for it. I’m so glad so many of you found me and my writing and kept with me through break ups and moves, break ups and moves. Thank you for reading and supporting me, always!

New Year’s Resolutions for 2015

I never reach all of my goals for a new year, but I do alright. With all the optimism in the world, I offer my resolutions for 2015:

  1. Do as many live lit shows as I possibly can this year
  2. Complete intro roller derby class at Derby Lite
  3. Do Feminine Comique training
  4. Volunteer marketing services to at least one nonprofit
  5. Bike 500 miles by year’s end
  6. Lose final 9 lbs for a total of 30 since May 2013
  7. Re-visit ASL skills, even if just via YouTube video practice
  8. Take an intro ukulele or fiddle class at Old Town School of Folk
  9. Mull over possible tattoo idea for at least six months
  10. Have the best Chicago summer ever
  11. Travel to visit Eileen and Margaret in Massachusetts
  12. Write for DNAinfo, NewsCastic, and other sites as much as I can
  13. Make a plan for better savings
  14. Ring in 2016 from Portland, OR

2014 Year-in-Review

If each year since I started this blog had a tagline, they might go something like, “2008: The Year I Started a Grown-Up Job After Graduating From College” or “2010: The Year I Moved to Chicago” or even “2012: The Year of The Ear Surgeries.”

What would 2014 be? The year all of Chicago’s crazies/misogynists descended upon me at once? The year of my breakup? Or would it be the year I said yes? This is how I choose to look back on this year.

I wrote 18 blog posts in 2013. This is my 54th for 2014. I wrote more this year than possibly any other, save the year I was a full-time reporter. I also traveled more in 2014 than ever before, from California to Vegas to Portland to Salt Lake City to home.

It was a good year. I couldn’t see how it could possibly turn out to be so when it started, but it absolutely was. I started out this year feeling like someone’s ex-girlfriend. I’m wrapping it up with such a solid sense of self, and a clearer understanding of who I am and what I want for my life. For me, 2010 was a similar year of growth, when I made a life-saving recovery thanks to grief counseling, and ended it with the decision to hit re-set by moving to Chicago. This year was less dramatic, but just as eye-opening and productive and soul-feeding.

I spent the first half of 2014 in complete upheaval: breaking up with my live-in boyfriend; spending the first three months of the year unsure if I was going to get hired for a new job I was in the running for; and moving out of my apartment of more than two years to a new neighborhood with a roommate I didn’t know.

The rest of 2014 was spent smoothing things out, leveling them: I am no longer in a co-dependent relationship in which I feel shitty half the time; I love my job; and I live in a much better apartment with an awesome lady who makes me tea and buys me chocolate when I’m sad. The second half of 2014 was spent writing, whether it was an episode of a webseries, freelance articles, blog posts, or a travel series. It was at the start of the second half that I felt the undeniable need to go to Portland alone and experience that city and new place.

I said yes to lots and lots of things. I like myself a whole lot better than I did 12 months ago. So, as I’ve done since 2008, I present to you the inane; the important; the things I deemed worthy of blogging about this year.

January: My ex-boyfriend moved out of the apartment we shared. Was asked to be a contributor for the Addison Recorder. Got an email from an HR department about a marketing job I’d applied for. Enjoyed the company of Mango, a foster kitty that had been left in my custody.

February: Had a rough, cold winter and drove to the suburbs in a snowstorm for a job interview. Spontaneously decided to flee the polar vortex(es) and fly to San Diego to see Eileen and Tim.

March: Debated whether or not to re-sign my lease on an expensive one-bedroom that used to be paid for by two people. The day before my 28th birthday I heard I was hired for the new job, but signed my lease knowing I was going to need to break it in the summer to find somewhere cheaper.

April: A month of goodbyes: Said goodbye to Groupon, and hello to my current company. Said goodbye to Sarah and Evan, who moved to Salt Lake City and Seattle, respectively. Ran a 5K with Jaimi — my first in two years, her first one ever.

May: Said another goodbye, to Mango the cat. Ran another 5K, this time with Travis. Got horribly sick just before Memorial Day weekend, but recovered in time to go on an illuminating bike ride to Evanston with Becca.

June: Rode my bike everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. Made plans to move in with Adele in Albany Park. Was unfortunately assaulted by a cyclist in Lincoln Square just before moving. Began writing in earnest for the Addison Recorder. Ran my first 8K.

July: Went to Ohio for Fourth of July weekend. Threw myself a moving-out party. Wrote an episode of a webseries. Had a meltdown after procrastinating packing for weeks. Packed. Said goodbye to my home of 2+ years and cried a lot. Decided to visit Portland by myself in the fall.

August: Settled into the new apartment and was surprised by how much better I felt just by getting out of the old place. Got really into using Twitter. Tallied up my miles and realized I’d ridden more than 200 over June, July, and August.

September: Bought myself a tiny blue record player and held its importance close. Finally read at a live lit event, sharing an essay about moving out of the old place and away from the memories it was built from. Went to Vegas for work and began to feel mounting excitement for Portland. Ran my best 5K yet, this time by myself.

October: Flew to Portland by myself Oct. 1. Fell in love with a part of the country I was unfamiliar with and biked everywhere I went for four days. Took a bus to visit Evan in Seattle. Read at two more live lit shows. Starting making lists for NewsCastic. Began to imagine myself living in Portland.

November: Climbed all the steps of the Sears Tower with Jaimi, Becca, and Jodi. Felt the heavy weight of my mom being gone for seven years. Had an essay published on Hello Giggles. Saw the final version of the webseries episode I wrote. Flew to SLC to see Sarah with Stef for a very fun Friendsgiving.

December: Had a really effing terrible cab experience. Signed up for a January stand-up comedy class taught by a live lit woman I admire and respect. Took up roller derby. Got bangs! Went home for Christmas and was gifted the skates I needed for game play. Flew home thinking about what I want to get out of 2015 and began making some plans.

Live Lit At Last

Me reading an essay at Story Club

Photo taken by Stef (Thanks!)

I can finally cross “read an essay at a live lit event” off of my bucket list (and I guess my 2013 list of New Year’s Resolutions). I got the chance to read at Story Club Thursday night, and even though I thought I might tremble off the stage during the entire first page, I am so glad I did it.

I read a more polished version of a blog post I wrote the morning I moved, while waiting for the movers to show up.

Thanks to Stefanie who encouraged me from the start (Sarah too, who was with us at Holiday Club in spirit, all the way from Salt Lake City!). Stef gave me  a couple last-minute detail suggestions that really added to my piece, and she also gave me a giant hug the moment I got off stage. Thanks also to Christina, who came out to see me and who helped me revise my essay in our writers group. They were among the very few people I told, so I apologize to those of you who wanted to see me finally make this happen. If I get another chance, I’ll let more people know with the hopes that I’ll be less nervous in the future.

The live lit community in Chicago is so overwhelmingly supportive. I met a lot of great people that night and was glad to see the folks I already knew who are a part of that crowd. I felt lifted up by them all. I hope I get the chance to read again soon.

Writing & Twitter

Part of my job at my association is to offer social media assistance to businesses, and it’s an extremely rewarding aspect of the work I do. It did, however, mean that I had to start a Twitter account. I’d had accounts in the past, including one for my news site. I knew how to use it, and I posted to it for 60625, but try as I might, I couldn’t train myself to check it often enough to make it worthwhile as a social media tool.

But now, after three months of use, I am here to tell you that I get it now. First off, you have to allow for text or email notifications or else you’re never going to check that nonsense in the beginning. Also, don’t follow every single person/spam bot who follows you first because it will just clog up your feed.

Anyway. Don’t get me started. I now see the value of Twitter, in terms of networking, research, entertainment, and — lately — finding freelance work. I’ve been writing like crazy in recent weeks, and Twitter has a lot to do with this burst of creative productivity.

I’ve been blogging for my friends’ pop culture site, The Addison Recorder, since January. But it was pretty cool to get tweeted at by the author of a book I reviewed for that site:

Additionally, I connected with a friend’s new magazine about the Midwest and expanded on an idea I’d written on here previously about the oil and gas boom in my hometown. I saw on Twitter a call for submissions, so I pitched my idea and got it approved. I turned it in a couple weeks ago.

I later found on Twitter that a friend-of-a-friend’s web series was seeking script submissions for the next episode of their show, so I wrote something and sent it their way. I just heard yesterday that they want to produce what I wrote into an episode. It’s really exciting.

I also started following tons of live lit folks here in Chicago, and now I’m trying to get in on some of those events. Longtime readers may remember that performing at a live lit event has been on my bucket list for the last couple of years, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to finally make that happen. Meanwhile, I keep writing down ideas and outlines of essays that might be suited for that platform.

I stand before you a (years late) Twitter advocate and convert. It took a few half-hearted attempts, but I can’t go back now.

How to make a web series in two months

…I did it once, I can do it again, right? Ugh. The script is going over well so far with the people who read it last night and today. I feel like I’m ready to start casting. But what a pain that was, and yet how lucky I was to have an apartment centrally located in the city of Columbus. I’m going to have to try to convince my work friend (Aryeh, the one who asked me to do this in the first place) to let me cast at his house or something, or else go to a coffeeshop. But coffeeshops can be so unpredictable; it might be loud and crowded, or it could be a slow night. We’ll see. I don’t want to have to hold more than two nights’ worth of auditions.

I kind of have someone from my improv circle in mind for the role of the candidate, but I don’t know if he actually does acting or enjoys it. I think I will maybe reach out to him. I also thought another one of those guys would be great for my comic relief-type character, Dennis, but I don’t think I know him well enough to ask him to do it.

I need to make a list of the equipment I wish I’d had when I made “Paper Cuts,” as well as a list of crew positions. It would be nice if I had a monitor on set so I could watch what was being filmed, and let a director of photography do the actual camera work. I used to think that was kind of a lame, hands-off approach for a director, but now I know it’s more important to see what’s really going on in the frame than to just get to be the person holding the camera. Plum St. Productions definitely taught me that. I’d also love to have some actual lighting equipment and someone who can ensure good sound quality. I’m not sure how many of these things are feasible, but I know they’d all lead to a better final product.

I learned from making “Beacon Alley” that if you keep everyone on task, you can get a surprising amount of material shot in a day. I would like to set up a production schedule once I’ve finalized the script, but I don’t see why casting can’t take place now. The characters aren’t going to be changing.

As I always did before, I’ll be randomly listing necessary venues / materials and relying on the kindness of readers, friends and family for assistance or suggestions. Our biggest need now is a venue to film most of our scenes, which take place in a campaign office. It has a main room and two smaller rooms off of it, one to the left and one to the right. It’s the room where the majority of the script takes place, and I have no idea if it exists.

I might post a list of characters on here soon. I like the characters I wrote, and I feel good about them. I really hope this project actually happens and my work friend isn’t just bored this week and will forget about it by Monday. I suppose even if he is, I can still go ahead and make it.

Lots and lots of video

I am editing a couple videos for the Summit Workshop tonight as well as a video of Christina’s bridal shower from a couple weeks ago. The thing about video editing, which I love to do, is that if you don’t edit something right away, it kind of bogs you down when you finally get around to doing it. It catches up with you, weighs you down and when you think about how MUCH you have to edit you feel too overwhelmed to begin. And so, something you love becomes a chore. And that’s pretty much defeating the point. In other words, I am going to try to be better about editing stuff very shortly after I shoot it. I don’t want another “Beacon Alley” on my hands; I waited until all the footage was shot (about six hours) before editing a frame of it. What a nightmare.

On the other hand, with “Paper Cuts,” I pretty much edited as I went; the downside was, I was so excited to finish an episode that I’d almost immediately post it to YouTube. Then I’d watch it later and notice some editing flaws and wish I’d waited a day or two so I could go back with fresh eyes and get it right before sharing it.

That said, the other day I edited a better (and shorter) version of “Where Are Eileen, Liz and Meryl?” and sat on it for a couple days before uploading. Check it out if you get the chance.

I am also excited about a new writing project that has come my way; a friend at work wants to produce a short or web series with me, so we are working together on a political satire. It’s probably going to be about a campaign worker who moves to a small town to help elect a mayoral candidate only to discover the campaign office is in complete disarray and the candidate is an idiot. It should be fun. I want to write it and cast it by the end of July. We’ll see if that actually happens.

I have not been to my writer’s group since before I went on vacation. I really didn’t see myself keeping up with them after I moved but I still feel like a flake. Moving has changed my scene a little bit since I’m a lot farther from campus/Clintonville, but on the other hand I’ve got to spend so much time with my family. I’ve even gone to Caldwell twice this month and it looks like I’ll be going back for Saturday night. I had to make a list of my priorities recently and I knew some stuff had to go; the writer’s group seems to be a casualty of this decision, sadly. Maybe I’ll go back and visit one night.

Writer FAIL

So, last week I submitted those two ideas I mentioned, and later, a third idea for a video segment (the fake iPhone commercials). All three of these ideas seemed to go over not terribly with the writers who commented, so I decided to take the initiative to write a first draft of my Twilight sketch. I posted it Thursday night and felt really good about myself. I’d written a sketch, by God. On Friday, no one had commented on it but I could see a couple had viewed it. I checked back over the weekend and got my first sketch criticism.

They said they’d tell me when my ideas, jokes and drafts sucked, and boy, did they. I’m not gonna lie, even though I was prepared for it, it still smarted. My heart plummeted when I read the feedback; my draft didn’t have enough jokes, and the one joke I was most proud of was deemed a desperate attempt at shock value and unfit for the stage. Can you imagine me writing something so offensive it’s not stage appropriate?

I know I got too cocky, too early on. I also didn’t try hard enough, and at the very same time, I tried far too hard. I should have sat on my draft for a couple days rather than immediately posting it, and I should have been much more thoughtful about it. I shouldn’t have tried to live up to the other female writers’ reputation for writing the most offensive jokes, because that’s not my natural writer’s voice. I’m just beginning to worry that my natural writer’s voice might not have the sense of humor I imagined.

The thing is, this is the hard part. This is where I take what I wrote and completely re-do it and make it better. This is what they said would happen. This is the part where I move forward and try harder and write better jokes. This is where I plead to my writer’s group later tonight to let me bounce some lines off of them.

Also, I failed miserably at my weekend experiment to not spend any more than fifty bucks. I blame Mozart’s, but really I blame my overwhelming desire to drop everything and run to Target when I realize I’ve lost my sunglasses and also pick up a new pair of shorts while I’m there. I still know I’ve got enough cash to survive a weekend in Chicago, but I can’t help but have traumatic flashbacks to the Colorado trip when I unwittingly placed a non-budgeted $150 deposit on a bike I borrowed for two days. Vacations are the times when a credit card might come in handy.

Brace yourself

I just submitted two sketch ideas to the Shadowbox online forum – a more generalized version of “The Hills” parody I described to my dad, and a sketch making fun of “Twilight.” It’s for the Halloween show, after all. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I am feeling better about it all than I was 48 hours ago.

The day after my interview/confirmation of insanity, I was sent my personal login information for the writers’ team forum, where they share basic sketch ideas, outlines and drafts. There, the other writers will read, comment and give direction for an idea and the original writer (or another writer, if so inclined) will go from there and take the next step. I was encouraged to take other people’s ideas and work from them if I felt like I had a good direction to take it in.

On Friday after work, I pored over the sketch ideas already posted. I had mixed feelings about them as a whole; some, I thought to myself, were out of my league but there were some I felt I could have written and hopefully even improved on. This made me feel a little better, as if I was being told maybe I could belong to this team after all. Hours after I was accepted for this internship, my confidence took a nose dive and I began wondering what I had been thinking by even daring to ask for a role. My dad told me I don’t take criticism well, to which I snapped, “YES I DO”. Just kidding. I actually said in a whiny voice, “I think I’ve gotten better about that…”

I think he may be thinking of the time he once politely questioned my decision to major in journalism, when at the time I was hardly a news junkie. I accused him of saying I was simply not smart enough to be a reporter and promptly burst into tears in a canoe in the middle of a lake. It’s true – at that moment in my life, I was not terrible receptive to constructive criticism. However, to be fair, being judged by our parents, whom most strive hardest in their whole lives to appease, feels far worse than being criticized by anyone else on the planet. And besides, that was years ago. And look how far that journalism degree got me! …Oh, wait.

But, back to today. Confidence slightly restored, I resigned myself to submitting at least two ideas, since the head writer had e-mailed and requested two outlines by the end of this coming week. Much like in college, when I couldn’t *possibly* write a boring paper when my half of the room was dirty (remember when you were confined to/responsible for only half of a room?), I couldn’t bring myself to submit any sketch ideas with a sink full of dishes. That is why I am announcing this pitiful accomplishment at 10 p.m. on Sunday night. This has been my weekend.

Well, the rest of my weekend has mostly been made up of me talking to other people about how very excited I am to have the chance to show my stuff as a sketch comedy writer – there was little sketch comedy writing involved until very recently. I went to a going-away party for a couple Muskingum friends who are moving out of state in two weeks. There were lots of people there, only four of whom I knew prior to, but I really enjoyed meeting all those new people last night and talking to them. Seth and Amy have cultivated a pretty awesome circle of friends in their time in Columbus. I am sure they are sad to leave them for the time being.

Today, I picked up Owen and Jamie at the airport and ended up spending a good part of the day with Owen. Sadly, Jamie had to head to her hometown because her uncle passed away while they were on vacation, which they were afraid might happen. Owen picked up their cat, which I watched while they were away, and he bought me pizza for my cat-watching troubles. (Of which there were none.)

The weekend’s gone by way too fast, as usual, but I’ve got plenty going on this week. Aside from trying to convey sketch premises as non-idiotic ideas, I’ll be shooting more footage for the Summit Workshop on Tuesday and doing a wedding related video on Thursday. Bonus: I get to see B.C. and Christina as a result of Thursday’s plans. Hooray!